Google’s AlphaGo A.I will prompt a smartphone ban in all official Go tournaments in South Korea, the Korea Baduk Association announced on Thursday. Up until now, Go players were allowed to use phones during matches because no digital tool was advanced enough to give top players an edge over their opponents. However, as Google DeepMind proved with AlphaGo, computers are now not only capable of keeping up with Go masters but can also convincingly beat them. While AlphaGo isn’t available in common smartphones, it likely will be in the future, which is why the Korea Baduk Association is now planning to preemptively forbid its use. The Korean Go authority has yet to decide on the time-frame for implementation of this rule as it believes A.I. solutions like AlphaGo are still not a threat to the integrity of the game, but the nation-wide smartphone ban on official Go tournaments is expected to be announced sooner rather than later.
The event that allegedly prompted this decision was AlphaGo’s convincing victory against Lee Se-dol, believed to be one of the best Go players in the world. Google DeepMind’s creation beat Lee 4-1 in March, demonstrating that the age of machines proficient in Go is on the horizon. Until then, the Go community wasn’t lacking skeptics who didn’t believe an A.I. will ever be able to master what many deem the most complicated board game ever created. However, unlike programs designed to play chess and similar conceptually simpler games, Google DeepMind designed AlphaGo to process information in the same manner a human brain does.
Google DeepMind’s A.I. first caught the attention of the Go community when it managed to beat a professional Go player without any handicaps back in late 2015. Five months later, AlphaGo recorded another historic victory against Lee mentioned above, and the Korea Baduk Association commemorated that occasion by awarding the A.I. with an honorary 9-dan signifying its status as a professional Go player. In addition to being a curiosity, advancements in this field could also have significant implications for the future of the game as digital Go assistants may become a reality.